Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dories: Grand Banks

Grand Banks Dories are characterized by narrow bottoms, straight sides from chine to sheer and narrow ‘tombstone’ transoms. The original design (approximately 1830, 50 years after the Swampscott dory was first built) enabled the dories to be stacked and taken out to the Grand Banks fishing areas on schooners and then off loaded to one or two-man crews to fish for Cod and Halibut.

Stacked Dories (Source)

Towed Dories from Schooner Albert J. Lutz (Source)

Many designers have created variations of the Grand Banks Dories for recreational use, including Bolger, Michalak and Welsford.

Phil Bolger’s Gloucester Light Dory

Phil Bolger's Gloucester Light Dory, 15' 6" (4.7m) x 4' (1.2m)

Gloucester Light Dory Overview Plan

Phil Bolger...
"This is certainly the best design I ever made… When I come up for judgment and they stop me at the gate and ask, ‘What’s your excuse?’ I’ll tell them I designed the Gloucester Light Dory and they’ll have to let me in." (From Phil Bolger’s obituary in the Boston Globe)

Jim Michalak's Sportdory

Jim Michalak...
“Sportdory is an attempt to improve upon the Bolger/Payson dory I built about 15 years ago. This boat is slightly smaller than [that] dory. In particular the bow is lower in hopes of cutting windage. The stern is mostly similar. The center cross section is about identical. This boat has slightly more rocker than the original Bolger dory.” (Taken from Plans Description on Duckworks site)

Jim Michalak's Sportdory 15' (4.6m) x 4' (1.2m)

Overview Plan of Sportdory

John Welsford’s Light Dory Mk II

John Welsford…
“…a plywood dory with a tombstone transom (it’s not really a dory otherwise); a nicely curved stem to force some shape into the sides forward, a strong sheer kicking up aft to a high stern (thoughts of going surfing) with the maximum beam (further aft than is traditional to make the boat run straight in heavy following seas). Added to this is a big skeg for directional stability and to balance the windage, buoyancy tanks under the seats and a sculling notch in the transom…” (From plan description)
John Welsford’s Light Dory Mk II is 16’ 8” (5.14m) x 4’ 1” (1.26m)

Overview Plan of Light Dory Mk II

Also see Michael Storer’s article: "Are Dories REALLY Seaworthy"


  1. It was Welsford's Light Dory that first got my attention as a possible cruising rowboat. John talked me out of it, advising that Walkabout (derived more from Swampscott and Alpha dories) was a more capable design. Banks dories are simple construction, and can carry a load of fish, but they don't perform as well rowing or sailing compared to the more refined hull forms.

    1. HI Rick... Agree, Walkabout much the better choice for an oar cruiser... However, for 'puttering around', a light dory will work well... As always, first have to define how we'll use the boat in the real world...

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  3. R2Ak 2015 entry swampscott dory rowcruiser was something to worth mention--Patrick Buntain and Timothy Penhallow had modified it to rowcruise..

  4. Hi Drtarkan72... Thank you for forwarding this to me.

    She would make a nice cruiser and definitely very sea-worthy. I'd see her as mostly a sailboat with oar auxiliary, verses a rowboat with sail auxiliary... She'd be bear to row in any kind of wind with all that rigging.

    Kind regards,